Tag Archives: Year In Review

Book Archive 2022

Look at me, recapping the last year of reading while it’s still the first week of the new year! If 2021 was summed up as the end of grad school and a return to recreational and leisure reading, then 2022 was a record breaking year of reading. I read 103 books last year. Yes, a hundred and three books! I chalk this up to discovering that I can borrow audiobooks via an app through my library that completely transformed my audiobook game. It’s like I went back in time to the late 1970’s when I had a shiny new library card and could check out five books at a time only now I’m an adult and it’s audiobooks I can listen to whenever I’m doing anything I can do by rote. It was a lot and I realized that I also needed this year of reading to refill my creative well for my writing, too. The more books I read, the more ideas I had flowing. More to come on that at a later time! For now, here’s my own personal recap of the year with notes for anyone looking for a quick list of recommendations (or warnings in some cases!)

Books I Read in 2022 (in chronological order)

  • The Book of Accidents, Chuck Wendig – enjoyable horror story from an author I have read a lot about and learned from at conferences but hadn’t picked up many of his books. This one caught my eye and it was really cool without much gore (if I remember correctly).
  • Malibu Rising, Taylor Jenkins Reid – great story of flawed people
  • Project Hail Mary, Andy Weir – the second time I read this because a friend and I gushed about how great it was at a writing retreat and I got a physical copy. So good even a second time.
  • People We Meet on Vacation, Emily Henry – split timeline romance novel that was really well done with a great ending
  • The Egg and Other Stories, Andy Weir – a collection of short stories because I was curious if everything he had ever written was just amazing. I learned that authors of amazing books all have to start somewhere with not everything being amazing. It gave me hope as an author myself.
  • Come as You Are, Emily Nagoski – a nonfiction book about how people are wired differently when it comes to sex and how to just accept yourself
  • Recursion, Blake Crouch – hard sci fi that was very well done. I really like everything I’ve ever read by this author.
  • The Bromance Book Club (Bromance Book Club #1), Lyssa Kay Adams – a romance from the point of view of the man? It was interesting and enjoyable and was recommended by a friend. Definitely worth a read!
  • Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth – a book recommended by an “Empowered Women” resource group through work and a great nonfiction pick
  • Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life, Susan David – another “Empowered Women” recommendation that I liked even more than Grit. If you’re into self-help and psychology I recommend it.
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Taylor Jenkins Reed – one of the best books I read this year! Highly recommended
  • How Women Rise, Sally Helgesen – another nonfiction from my “Empowered Women” group that was geared toward how to get promoted in the workplace.
  • The Child (Kate Waters #2), Fiona Barton – book club pick that was a satisfying mystery and reads like a stand alone novel even though it is in a series
  • Billy Summers, Stephen King – I had zero expectations going into this since King’s writing lately has been hit or miss for me. I really liked this one which is his take on being in the mind of a hitman for hire.
  • The Shadows, Alex North – I wanted to love this one more because it was by the same author of one of my favorite reads last year but it was not as good.
  • An Absolutely Remarkable Thing (The Carls #1), Hank Green – very true-to-life/plausible scifi that a friend recommended and was very good. This one is good especially if you are fascinated with the appeal of social media
  • Beautiful World, Where are You, Sally Rooney – the first Did-Not-Finish of the year. This doesn’t happen very often but when it does I feel sad. The characters were flat and a third of the way in I couldn’t make myself give a single shit about any of it so I put it down. At least these days I don’t waste audible credits on books like this that come with a LOT of hype in the book reading community.
  • Dark and Shallow Lies, Ginny Myers Sain – a young-adult murder mystery that I thing was well done for YA but could have been so much better if written deeper and with more horror for the adult market. If you like to read murder mysteries but don’t love to be scared then this would be a great pick for you.
  • A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor (The Carls #2), Hank Green – the second book was just as good as the first one!
  • Will, Will Smith – I wanted this to be mindblowing (again, thank you book marketing hype) but it was merely an interesting telling of Will Smith and how he grew up and became famous. I learned some cool tidbits but nothing earth shattering.
  • Anatomy: A Love Story, Dana Schwartz – a book club pick that was a fun read about a woman who wanted to be a doctor at a time when it wasn’t allowed that had a romance element to it as well. A fun read!
  • The Kind Worth Killing, Peter Swanson – psychological thriller recommended (and gifted) from a friend. It was a really good read if you like that genre!
  • 1984, George Orwell – I know I read this when I was a kid for an English class but I couldn’t really remember it so I read it again. I just don’t like the writing style from the time and the themes of the book are just as disturbing to our time as they were back then. Am I glad I read it? The jury is still out.
  • Get a Life, Chloe Brown (The Brown Sisters #1), Talia Hibbert – do you like strong a diverse female character romance? Hell yes this is a series for you.
  • World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, Max Brooks – this one had been on my to-read list for a while and someone mentioned it in a book discussion so I put a hold on it from the library. I had seen the movie by the same name but this was done in a very interesting way and it was in some ways better than the movie that tried to tie it all into a single person experiencing the end of the world. The book is always better, folks!
  • Dare to Lead, Brené Brown – a re-read with a group of leaders at work. Just as good the second time
  • A Pale Light in the Black (NeoG #1), K.B. Wagers – a fantastic scifi adventure set in space with found family themes. I loved this book and couldn’t wait for the second one!
  • How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them, Barbara F. Walter – super disturbing to read how bad things really are/could be in the USA if we don’t look around and pay attention in several areas.
  • The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, V.E. Schwab – this was a re-read because it got picked for my bookclub. I read it again anyway because it was the best book I read in 2021. The whole group loved it. So much better the second time!
  • Take a Hint, Dani Brown (The Brown Sisters #2), Talia Hibbert – more diverse female character romance that was just as good as the first. I think this was my favorite in the whole series.
  • The 7 Secrets of the Prolific: The Definitive Guide to Overcoming Procrastination, Perfectionism, and Writer’s Block, Hillary Rettig – someone recommended this one as a writer reference book. I didn’t know how much I was suffering from perfectionism and how much THAT was driving my writer’s block and struggles to get back into writing. I am so glad I picked this up on Kindle and read it at the perfect time after grad school!
  • A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, Holly Jackson – another young adult mystery that I didn’t hate. Honestly, after all this time I just know that I am unsatisfied with the YA genre so it shouldn’t be surprising that they are just okay when I read them.
  • Act Your Age, Eve Brown (The Brown Sisters #3), Talia Hibbert – third in the series and so much fun!
  • Perfectly Undone, Jamie Raintree – I picked this up because I follow the author on social media and use tools she sells for productivity tracking for years. I was curious having seen her journey leading up to this novel being published. It was not a genre I usually love but enjoyed reading this one.
  • The Lighting Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1), Rick Riordan – my kids have both been begging me to read this damn (MIDDLE GRADE) series for them for years. Pretty sure they tricked me by making me choose either this or Harry Potter and because I really dig mythology I thought this would be the lesser of two evils (and I don’t have to burn Audible credits anymore thanks to library books!) We listened together on our spring break road trip and I didn’t die.
  • Utah’s Best Poetry and Prose 2022, League of Utah Writers – I was curious to read the winners of a writing contest I was thinking about entering so I picked up the curated winners from the previous year to get a sense of the types of things win. It was a great little collection and inspired a short story that I will have published in 2023 as a result.
  • It Ends with Us, Colleen Hoover – this was recommended by one of my bookclub friends and I had mixed feelings when it was over. It is about generational abuse and I wasn’t sure why it wasn’t living up to the hype until my daughter also read it and nailed it that it is an interesting story but not well written. Flat characters and a lot of “telling” instead of gripping scenes that just unfold in your imagination. It had so much hype and neither of us could really understand why.
  • Aurora Blazing (Consortium Rebellion #2), Jessie Mihalik – finally this series was finished so it was time to read the second. It was as good as the first in the series. Strong female leading character, scifi space action, and steamy romance make it a perfect series for me.
  • The Last Thing She Told Me, Linda Green – book club pick that is a generational secrets thriller/mystery that kept me guessing all the way through but could have kept me more on the edge of my seat. It was pretty good but not memorable.
  • The Love Hypothesis, Ali Hazelwood – I think this is one of my new favorite romance authors because her books are all filled with female scientists as main characters. This was the first of many I read of her this year thanks to a friend who recommended it.
  • The Awakening, Caroline Peckham – another dud for me that comes with a warning. This is probably considered “new adult” where the characters are in high school/early college and coming of age. It was a hot mess of every cliche trope you could throw in: vampires, sirens, mermaids, werewolves, lost magical babies raised in the mundane human world and not knowing their true identity. Add to that a boatload of non-consenting sexual encounters that were borderline rape and it was a hard hell no to any more of this series.
  • The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller – an amazing and beautiful retelling of Achilles and Patroclus. It is written for the YA audience but I didn’t hate it and would have loved it even more if I hadn’t recently read a similar retelling not long ago that frames their relationship as it always was (we seriously need more LGBTQ+ positive stories that normalize queerness in literature!)
  • Chaos Reigning (Consortium Rebellion #3), Jessie Mihalik – third in the series which I thought would be the last and turns out is not. Now I have to do what I hate doing and wait for another one to be published!
  • November 9, Colleen Hoover – why the hell is this author getting so much hype!?!? Now that I’ve read several by her there is a theme to her writing that somehow normalizes that abuse is normal? Expected? Okay as long as you are strong and can get through it? Um, NO. Please stop reading this author!!
  • This is How It Always Is, Laurie Frankel – A bookclub pick. This was an achingly beautiful and at times very hard to read book about a transgender child told through the eyes of a set of parents who just wanted to love their child and keep them safe. I cried and rejoiced and my heart broke for anyone trying to navigate this reality. If you want to understand without any preaching about how you “should” feel on this topic, I highly recommend it.
  • The House in the Cerulean Sea, T.J. Klune – this had so many recommendations from fellow authors that I put it on my hold list at the library. It was a beautifully written magical story about found families.
  • The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Vol 1: At the Edge of Empire, Daniel Kraus – really long and hard to read horror novel that I picked up because the author was announced as a keynote speaker for a conference I was attending. It was not my kind of horror novel but I don’t regret reading it.
  • Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman – So many people say this is their favorite Gaiman novel. I love several of his novels and I always thought I was missing out by having not read this one. Turns out this is my least favorite one. Now I know!
  • The Girl with All the Gifts, M.R. Carey – book club pick that I’d had on my to-read list for years. It was a very interesting take on a world coping after a zombie apocalypse.
  • Neon Gods (Dark Olympus #1), Katee Robert – I saw someone I know reading this series and it looked like a very intriguing and adult take on mythology retelling (and after Percy Jackson I needed this in my life.) It did not disappoint although if you’re not into bondage and exhibition (like I’m not) the steamy parts may not be as enjoyable as others in the series. The romance story is SO good, though so I just read fast through the parts that didn’t do it for me.
  • Permanent Record, Edward Snowden – nonfiction account of a fascinating person who changed history and yet is still alive. I had seen the movie they made about Snowden and worried it was not going to be worth reading this book but I was wrong. I especially enjoyed hearing how he had grown up with the internet in the exact same era that I did. It was like reliving my early years online and realizing that it had all happened literally in my lifetime. Fascinating read!
  • Rotters, Daniel Kraus (plus a re-read because it was that good!) I literally read this back to back – first on audible and then I bought a physical copy because it was that good and because I was asked to be on a book discussion panel and I needed to be able to make notes and do analysis to prepare. It is a YA Horror (which you don’t see that often) and was SO good.
  • The (Un)Popular Vote, Jasper Sanchez – a diverse YA romance novel with a side of politics recommended by a friend. This one was SO good I binged the audiobook in a single afternoon in my hammock on the mountain. Give this one to your teenagers!
  • The Night Tiger, Yangsze Choo – a bookclub pick in the historical fiction genre that introduced me to a time in history I knew very little about. It was full of so many characters it was difficult to follow but overall I am glad I read it. Better on audible was the consensus of the group.
  • Rock Paper Scissors, Alice Feeney – this hit my list because my oldest got all excited about a book that hadn’t even been released yet (thanks a lot, TikTok) and I realized I had read another book by this author that I had really liked. So instead of being mad about waiting for one to come out, I picked this one up instead. I really liked it although it is set in the UK and sometimes culturally those don’t always hit the same for me.
  • The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho – this is another book that’s been on my to-read for years and thanks to library cards and someone recommending it again recently I finally got around to reading. It was nothing like I thought it would be. I’d been led to believe it was all about a journey of enlightenment and new age zen and instead it was steeped in christianity wanting us to believe it was enlightened. I was very disappointed.
  • They Both Die at the End, Adam Silvera – this was a fantastic and emotional read that kept me thinking about it long after it was done. Yes, they both die at the end but the story of the last day of their lives knowing it is the day they will die, was so touching and beautiful. Highly recommended!
  • The Obesity Code: Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss, Jason Fung – I’ve already discarded all of the “diet culture” bullshit but this was science based discussion about what actually drives the number on the scale written by a doctor and recommended by a doctor (although not my own, but a friend’s). It was scientifically interesting but not mind-blowing. Surprise, insulin is at the root of so many things and there are SO many things that affect insulin that no one ever talks about. This was the last push I needed to finally find a functional medicine doctor to sort out all my hormones that are (surprise!) way messed up. Why aren’t all doctors focused on hormone regulation? Okay, I’m off my soapbox now… I return you to your regularly scheduled book review post!
  • The Three-Body Problem, Liu Cixin – scifi translated into english from another language often hits differently and this I fear had some of that going on. Recommended by several reader friends, I picked it up and had probably higher expectations going in than I should have. It was an interesting concept and hard scifi like I usually love but it wasn’t compelling enough to continue with the series.
  • Bent Heavens, Daniel Kraus – I actually met the author and was on a horror panel with him at The Quills Conference in which someone asked him if he’d ever written a book he regretted. He immediately said yes, that this book he felt had gone too far down the horror path. Of course that made me want to read it. I can confirm it was very dark and very horrific (and written for the YA audience even!) but I also really enjoyed it and am glad I read it.
  • I’m Glad My Mom Died, Jennette McCurdy – I remember this child actor from one of my oldest’s favorite TV shows growing up. She read it first and gushed about it so I also read it. Talk about a horrific family to grow up in. The title is a raw and truthful summation of the book and by the end I was also glad the woman was gone.
  • Verity, Colleen Hoover – I gave this author one more try but even a novel about a writer was full of weird manipulation and abuse and somehow paints the main characters as somehow not victims of said abuse? It is like reading something and then thinking you’re in the twilight zone hearing so many people say how much they love it. Seriously, stop the insanity!
  • Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few, Robert B. Reich – this is a dated nonfiction book but all the concepts in it still hold true. It made me sad for where we are in society and how politics have put us here.
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Taylor Jenkins Reid – second read because I picked this for my book club to read. We all loved it and it was even better a second time!
  • The Last House on Needless Street, Catriona Ward – a fantastic horror novel
  • All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1), Martha Wells – this was a novella that I read really fast. It was entertaining but the world was not that compelling and I haven’t picked up another installment yet.
  • A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature’s Deep Design, Frank Wilczek – another dud for me. I heard someone talk about how this was their favorite book and how it was all about quantum physics and so amazing. I’m mad that I actually spent an audible credit for it because it was all about trying to reconcile the concept of God and religion with science. That’s a hard pass for me, sorry. Another one that I refused to finish.
  • Upgrade, Blake Crouch – this was another hit from this author. This one about hacking our DNA and the ethics of it. Super great read for any scifi fan.
  • Spells for Forgetting, Adrienne Young – one of my favorite books this year that I picked up just because it was a beautiful cover at my local bookstore. My daughter and I listened to it on a road trip and both loved it.
  • The Light of Days: The Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler’s Ghettos, Judy Batalion – book club pick that was so bleak and hard to read but also such an important piece of history I had never even heard about. Glad I read it but such a hard one!
  • Electric Idol (Dark Olympus #2), Katee Robert – my favorite in the series so far. If you like steamy romance and mythology stories set in current times, this is a fabulous series.
  • The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson #2), Rick Riordan – just slogging through this series to make good on my deal with my children. I’m not unhappy that there are always really long wait times from the library. Don’t tell them I said that! If I struggle with YA, you can imagine how it feels to read middle grade. At least the humor and the mythology are decently entertaining.
  • Just Like Home, Sarah Gailey – what an amazing horror novel and psychological thriller with some paranormal thrown in. The perfect combination of things I like from an author who writes really well. I loved this one!
  • Daisy Darker, Alice Feeney – this is the one that had pre-release hype a plenty. It was also one that lived up to the hype.
  • Hold Fast Through the Fire (NeoG #2), K.B. Wagers – the second in the series and just as satisfying as the first. Now I have to be patient for the next one to release! (In case anyone is wondering, I’m still not a patient woman!)
  • All Boys Aren’t Blue, George M. Johnson – this was on a banned book list one of my local teacher friends shared and picked for a community book club. The proposed ban is probably because it has some graphic depictions of sexual encounters yet is a YA memoir. I am glad I read it but I kind of agree that it needs some content warnings if included in a high school library so readers aren’t shocked by the content. (It is NEVER okay to ban books in my opinion!)
  • The Atlas Six (The Atlas #1), Olivie Blake – I didn’t hate this but I also didn’t love it. The characters were flat, and there was no real motivation for any of the things that happened. Magic is cool but it can’t carry an entire book alone. Not sure I’ll pick up the next in the series.
  • Say Yes, Elle Kennedy – a very steamy novella!
  • The Hating Game, Sally Thorne – another romance because I apparently was on a bit of a kick for that this year. This one was okay but the setup had some holes in it for me that just didn’t make sense and thus I wasn’t a huge fan.
  • The Deep, Rivers Solomon – book club pick that was a very interesting read. I think I liked it better the longer I thought about the themes that it left me with and AFTER the discussion with the group. It is a very meta book that I really loved after the fact.
  • Stuck with You, Ali Hazelwood – another sexy scientist romance that I really enjoyed
  • Under the Whispering Door, T.J. Klune – a second by this author and recommended by a friend. I did love the story overall and liked the unique take on the afterlife.
  • Project Hail Mary, Andy Weir – yes, this is the third time I’ve read this book. Don’t judge! We listened as a family on our road trip and it was still so amazing! First time for hubby and little sister.
  • Upgrade, Blake Crouch – another family road trip book but a re-read for me. Hubby liked is just as much as I did!
  • Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell – another from the local district banned book list and one which has nothing questionable about it unless it is somehow not okay to authentically portray poverty and abusive step parent situations? People need to stop with the book banning bullshit already!
  • Below Zero, Ali Hazelwood – another sexy scientist romance because I love them
  • Fairy Tale, Stephen King – I wanted to love this so much especially when I realized it was another tie-in to the Dark Tower world. It was good, but not amazing, sadly!
  • The Summer I Turned Pretty, Jenny Han – my kids made me watch the television series based on this book series. I must say that I liked the book much better!
  • Beach Read, Emily Henry – what an amazing romance with a side of being a real author and some family trauma thrown in. I really loved this one.
  • We Are the Ants, Shaun David Hutchinson – local bookstore banned books group read that I didn’t really love. Nor could I figure out why anyone would want to ban it?
  • The Inheritance Games, Jennifer Lynn Barnes – a YA read that my daughter convinced me I would like. Surprise, I kind of did and now I’m waiting for the next one on my hold list.
  • Lies Like Wildfires, Jennifer Lynn Alvarez – this one (another YA) fell flat for me. I didn’t like the main character and the mystery was shallow.
  • Where I Left Her, Amber Garza – a fabulous psychological thriller with at least one twist I didn’t see coming at the end. Really loved this one!
  • Wicked Beauty (Dark Olympus #3), Katee Robert – another fabulous and steamy adult mythology. I have no idea how many there will be in this series but I’m going to keep reading them!
  • Under One Roof, Ali Hazelwood – yet another sexy scientist romance… I see a pattern here!
  • Renegades, Marissa Meyer – another recommendation from my daughter although I didn’t truly love this one. Didn’t hate it, but not sure it is worthy of continuing the series.
  • Lifted: Adventures in Ride Sharing, Jared Quan – a story collection written by a friend who I knew WHILE he was collecting these stories. I loved hearing these stories and am glad it was available via audiobook!
  • The Girl Next Door, Jack Ketchum – holy shit this one blew my mind. I was reading a writing book about how to write horror better and this was used several times as an example so I picked it up. It was so horrific but also I couldn’t put it down. This is my kind of horror!
  • Bones & All, Camille DeAngelis – I saw the movie first and then wondered if the book was better. Surprise: it WAS! (Not a surprise to anyone, right?) I really liked this horror novel that was NOT as gory as the movie was.
  • The Anatomy of Story, John Truby – a great writing reference that teaches the difference between story and plot. If you know you know, if you don’t get this book! Although it took me over a year to skim the last half that became very formulaic after the theoretical beginning that I liked the best.
  • Writing in the Dark, Tim Waggoner – best book on how to write horror for authors and aspiring authors. One of the few writing craft books that I read the entire way through and took insights from every single chapter. Highly recommended!

Putting 2019 In the Rear View

It’s officially 2020. A new year. A new decade. A new chapter. The past week has been full of those end-of-year, search-the-soul, write-something-witty-and-inspiring (or gritty and real) to share online from seemingly everyone.

Not me. I’m still not someone who does resolutions. Plus the last half of 2019 was one of the hardest six months I’ve ever endured and I’m not sure I really want to do anything but celebrate that I survived with my family and my sanity intact. You know, put the whole last half of 2019 in the rear view and never look back.

That’s what I I told myself anyway. I wasn’t going to be just another end of the year looking to the future blah blah blah among the masses. Turns out I can’t help myself. Although I am going to be real. Vulnerable even. So bear with me…

There was a little re-vitalizing of this site midyear 2019 – you might have noticed (if any of my readers are still with me after the recent neglect of my website) but appearances can be deceiving. The reality is that was part of a class at school – one of the last of my degree program. Which means I wasn’t slaying anything, just scraping by with what I hoped was at least a passing grade that term. It is an apt metaphor for my year…

Here’s the biggest thing I want to take away from 2019, and why I can’t help myself from this post. I am a college graduate – with a Bachelor of Art in Creative Writing and English and a minor in Communications. I never want to look back. Further, I want everyone reading this to stay in school and understand the importance of an education. I’m glad I did it. Even more glad that I did it on my terms and got a degree I wanted rather than the easy one building on my IT experience.

Truth is, I almost immediately am reaping the rewards with a shiny new promotion at work, managing a technical support team, which was the exact reason behind my doing it in the first place. Everything works out for a reason. I just wish I didn’t have to go through such a shitty three years because I had better things to do thirty years ago when I graduated high school. But I digress.

What also happened – the flip side of the shiny degree coin – is that I didn’t write anything of substance for the past year while I was working on reading and analyzing/deconstructing literature others have written. I am publishing two stories in 2020 but both are stories I wrote originally more than two years ago before college consumed me. Worse, it feels like I am starting over since I’m so damn rusty. My daily writing habits? They are as good as gone. Most days I waffle between the urge to give in and veg on the couch in front of whatever show my family is currently binge watching and the self-doubt and imposter syndrome telling me why bother.

The two extremes – successfully finishing my degree but also losing so much ground with my writing efforts – are currently at war within my psyche. 2020, I’m looking at you and am vowing to end said war.

It isn’t all sadness and despair, though. We took an island vacation and for two glorious weeks I read for leisure and slowly regained both connections to my family (it’s hard to maintain deep relationships even with those you live with when you’re as consumed as I’ve been trying to finish as quickly as possible) and myself. Specifically that piece of myself that creates something from nothing when I nurture it.

Suffice it to say that I was successful in comparing less last year as I set out to do and I finished what I started. As for the rest of the shit show that can be chalked up to 2019 (including the torn meniscus I suffered with for most of the year), I say good riddance. 2019 will always live in my memory as the year I hit the bottom while achieving my greatest measurable accomplishment – all at the same time. Here’s to the future – may it be brighter than last year!

2018 Books Archive

Yes, I know it is already well into 2019. As with most things in my life, I’m behind a bit. Maybe I could count the first quarter of 2019 as a trial period and we just pick up as if nothing left off from here? I like it. Pretend it is early January if that doesn’t work for you.

At any rate, here’s my recap of last year’s reading. It is a very long list (in the order read because OCD planning last year prevailed). It’s also more for my own look back for future reference. But if you see something you like here and pick it up because of my brief recommendation then I’ve done something good to pay things forward for the authors.

I’m proud of myself for reading as much for leisure as assigned and textbooks in 2018. A win if any I’ve heard for last year! Here’s to keeping that trend up in 2019.

  • It Came From the Great Salt Lake: A Collection of Utah Horror, K. Scott Forman (editor) – I have a story in this one so it was very cool to read. Many of the authors are friends and it was a pleasure reading such great stories. Not sure you love horror or want short bedtime stories, pick this one up!
  • Monster Hunter Alpha (Monster Hunter International #3), Larry Correia – I wanted to like this more but maybe if you’ve read one you’ve read them all?
  • Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty – this was a book club pick and what a great little gem it was! Great characters and great story.
  • Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, Kim Malone Scott – this was an amazing read for anyone in management or leadership especially. It is good for anyone in the business world – more so if you work in a culture full of passive-aggressive folk. Highly recommended!
  • Artemis, Andy Weir – almost as good as his first one and very entertaining.
  • Personality: Theory and Research, Cervone – textbook!
  • Henry V, William Shakespeare
  • Sonnets, William Shakespeare
  • Macbeth, William Shakespeare
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini – book club pick
  • The Taming of the Shrew, William Shakespeare
  • Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare – can you tell I took a Shakespeare class? Sigh… at least it is behind me now!
  • Flipped, Wendelin Van Draanen – book club pick
  • What Immortal Hand, Johnny Worthen – this one started out a little slow but SO worth the build up. By the end I couldn’t put it down.
  • Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov – a classic but I’m not sure how I feel about it after having read it.
  • Hamlet, William Shakespear
  • Team of Teams, General Stanley McChrystal – the latest buzz book at work. It was just meh for me.
  • Rot & Ruin, Jonathon Maberry – I heard lots of great things about this one and I had to pick it up after I met the author in person. No disappointment here! There are lots more in the series which I will likely return to when I have more time.
  • Shadow and Bone (The Grisha Trilogy #1), Leigh Bardugo – another one with super hype. It didn’t suck but it is clearly written for a young-adult audience and I didn’t love it enough to read more in the trilogy.
  • Red Clocks, Leni Zumas – amazing book that an agent who I pitched my own novel to said it sounded like. Sure enough, this is very similar to the world my own novel is set in. Both awesome and a let down at the same time. To make myself feel better, I made my book club read it, too. They loved it, which was very cool.
  • Wonder, R.J. Palacio – book club pick
  • Feed, Mira Grant – pretty interesting new take on zombies.
  • Love on Location, September Roberts – written by a friend and such a fun read (romance erotica genre)
  • American War, Omar El Akkad – read more because it is a comparable title to the novel I wrote last year. It was interesting but took a while to really get good.
  • Introduction to Mass Communication: Media Literacy and Culture, Stanley J. Baran – you guessed it, text book!
  • Criminal Behavior: A Psychological Approach, Curt R. Bartol, Anne M Barton – love me some psychology textbook (seriously, though. Don’t judge me!)
  • The Code Red Revolution: How Thousands of People are Losing Weight and Keeping it off Without Pills, Shakes, Diet Foods, or Exercise, Cristy Code Red Nikel – my new lifestyle starting point. If you want easy to follow Keto-based life, this is very easy to follow with clear and simple “rules” to live by. If you want just the details and don’t need all the inspirational stories, I recommend the actual book (or Kindle version) because the audible you can’t skip around as easily.
  • The Red Tent, Anita Diamant – book club pick
  • Human Evolution and Culture: Highlights of Anthropology, Carol R. Ember, Melvin Ember, Peter N. Peregrine – turns out I really love anthropology!
  • Linguistics for Everyone: An Introduction, Kristin Denham, Ann Lobeck – textbook!
  • The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas – one seriously amazing book that everyone in America should read. No, really. Go read this book. (The movie was not as good!)
  • The Great Alone, Kristin Hannah – book club pick. Kristin Hannah never disappoints and this one was great.
  • Playing Big: The Unsexy Truth About How to Succeed in Business, Kim Flynn – very fluffy entrepreneur book for people who may have never worked in the business world. Maybe I’m just far more well-rounded than most but I found not much new or noteworthy in this one.
  • Annihilation, Jeff Vandermeer
  • Authority, Jeff Vandermeer
  • Acceptance, Jeff Vandermeer – I read this entire trilogy back to back as if it were one big book. Because of that, I had a complete story and was not disappointed. Had I waited in between (or read them at the rate they were being published) I would have been pissed. Overall a cool story. The movie sucked in comparison.
  • The Raven Boys – Maggie Stievater – book club pick. Another interesting YA that I probably won’t continue. If I didn’t have to read so many textbooks, I might have read more.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood – finally got around to reading this one. I think I liked it more than I would have because I watched the first season of the Hulu series based on the book. Overall, pretty disturbing and fantastic all at the same time.
  • Design Solutions – Robin Landa – textbook (I kind of hate graphic design, for the record)
  • The Dream Thieves, Maggie Stievater – okay, I lied. I found time for the second one of this series after my oldest read it.
  • Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, Neil deGrasse Tyson – I thought I would like this one more than I did. It was fascinating but not always the easiest to follow.
  • The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Perkins Gillman – school assigned
  • The Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker – fabulous read of the Trojan War from the women taken as slaves in the Greek camp. I made the book club read this one, too.
  • Tear Me Apart, J.T.Ellison – a quick and satisfying mystery.
  • The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut #1), Mary Robinette Kowal – I love this author and follow her podcast but this was the first book that struck me as something I would like to read. Alas, I was pretty disappointed. It was interesting but not compelling.
  • Children of Blood and Bone, Tomi Adeyemi – one of the best reads of the year. Interesting and full of diverse characters and cool magic.
  • The Devil’s Only Friend (John Cleaver #4), Dan Wells – I keep coming back to this series but I’m not sure where it is headed. I had limited time between classes and wanted something I could read quickly.
  • Literary Theory: The Basics, Hans Bertens – one of the most dreaded classes that ended up being one of my favorites. Who knew!
  • A Cold and Lonely Place, Sara J. Henry – probably shouldn’t start with book two in a series even if it is a stand-alone story. I just couldn’t get into the character who I assume readers knew more to keep them reading from the first book.
  • Midnight Riot, Ben Aaronovitch – just meh for me – British police who also hunts ghosts story.
  • New Family Values, Andrew Solomon – one of Audible’s free reads that was very compelling and made me think about how we define family in our current culture.

2017 Books Archive

Time again for my annual housekeeping where I archive for my own posterity the things I read over the course of the year. These are in reverse order because I successfully avoided the OCD trap that screamed I needed to put them back in order of reading. I initially aimed for more reading in 2017 but fell short. Since I’m still in school and a lot of the books on the list this year were textbooks, I count it as an overall achievement that I read more than the year before.

  • I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Iain Reid – this was a short read over Christmas break. It was confusing during the reading but couldn’t put it down because it was so different. It left me with a WTF kind of response but it keep me thinking about it for days later which was pretty cool. If you like psychological mind twists, this one is good.
  • Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline – read for upcoming book club discussion. A quick read that gave me some insights to events in American history that I hadn’t heard of before. I wish it had been longer and gave more details but it was entertaining.
  • Enchantress from the Stars, Sylvia Engdahl *didn’t finish* – It is rare that I don’t finish books but sometimes it happens. No one has time for books that don’t hold your attention and this one read like Star Trek fan fiction rife with “telling” rather than showing. After giving it a fair shot, I put it down. It was a book pick for a SciFi/Fantasty book club I’m in but it wasn’t for me.
  • The War of Art, Steven Pressfield – highly recommended for artistic types. This was a quick read but had a ton of “Ah-ha!” moments (as well as “oh shit” ones) when I discovered a lot of behaviors I had been doing that follow self-sabotaging patterns. 2018 will be much more productive because of this little book.
  • 100 Years of The Best American Short Stories, Heidi Pitlor (editor) – one of my textbooks for my creative writing degree. Great collection of short stories arranged by decade. I enjoyed it as a reader and as a writer studying successful authors.
  • The Book of Joy, Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu – a book club read. If you’ve ever read any self-help/enlightenment books it will seem like a recap but if you haven’t ever read this particular genre it was a great one to start with.
  • First, Break All the Rules, Marcus Buckingham – I read this after I became a supervisor of people at the recommendation of my manager. It has lots of insights about the nature of people and how to play to their strengths (instead of focusing on weaknesses) to lead more effectively. It was a great book, if you’re into that kind of thing.
  • IT, Stephen King – this was a re-read after I watched the latest movie version. I initially read this when I was a teen and wondered if it would scare me as much as an adult. Surprisingly, I remembered so few details and I thoroughly enjoyed all the tie-ins to the Dark Tower series that I hadn’t realized were there until now. Still love this book.
  • The Real World: Introduction to Sociology, Kerry Ferris – surprise, a textbook! This course taught me that while I really enjoy reading about Sociology, I don’t like writing papers about it. No more plans for a Sociology minor for me.
  • A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman – a book club pick that I didn’t love in the beginning but ended up SERIOUSLY loving by the end. It’s a slow build but so worth the read. One of the best books I read this year.
  • Ready Player One, Ernest Cline – finally read this one when I saw the trailer for the movie coming out in early 2018 and after hearing a bunch of hype from friends who had read it. It’s a fun book, mostly because I’m a child of the 80’s and lived all the things that were referenced (and adored) in the book. A surprisingly enjoyable read based solely on the entertainment value.
  • Unwind (Unwind #1), Neal Shusterman – I had several people recommend this book to me when they heard the premise of my latest novel. It was a quick, YA read that held my attention enough to entertain me but not enough to keep reading the series. Another example of the dystopian YA trend that has been done to death in my opinion.
  • The Art of Writing Fiction, Andrew Cowan – a fabulous book on how to write that was used as a textbook in one of my classes. I made a ton of notes, used it to build a new presentation that I taught to high school creative writing classes, and will continue to reference. If you’re a writer, you should have this on your to-be-read list.
  • A Grown Up Kind of Pretty, Joshilyn Jackson – a book club pick that was very entertaining. Adult themes and a story about three generations of women full of twists. A great discussion at book club. If you’re looking for an accessible book, easy to read with lots to talk about for your book club, I recommend this one.
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams – another pick of the sci-fi/fantasy book club. I read this mostly because so many people quote this classic and I felt left out (and not geek enough) having not read it. It was disappointing. I liked the movie much better!
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot – book club pick and a fascinating Non-Fiction read. I came away from this looking at the medical profession and the medical research field completely different. A fabulous read for anyone, especially for a book club.
  • The Lie that Tells a Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction, John Dufresne – another book on the writing craft used as a textbook. This one had fewer takeaways for my personal writing but it did influence me to do more free-writing to collect character sketches from real-life. A good one, but not a great one.
  • A Game of Thrones (Song of Ice and Fire #1), George R.R. Martin – I gave into the hype (hubby watches the HBO series and I met George R.R. Martin in person this year) and wasn’t disappointed. Although, I wonder if I would have been able to keep the characters straight if I didn’t have actors to picture from the TV series. I don’t have much time for epic tomes of this size much but I will slowly make my way through the series at some point. (It isn’t like they come out very regularly, so I hear!)
  • A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness – a book club pick this year which I had read previously. I listened to it again to refresh my memory for the discussion and loved it just as much the second time around. Still one of my all-time favorite books.
  • Sustainable Energy, Jefferson W. Tester – a textbook (no surprise) about one of my favorite subjects. I loved this course and would take it again if they’d give me credit for it. Interesting tidbit: three years ago I had a discussion about current research my brother in law (a materials engineering major at the time) was up to. At the time, I used the future possibilities he told me about as world building for my current novel. Then I got to see what had already been implemented and what is already emerging commercial technology now when I wrote the research paper for this class. I’m definitely a science geek (minus the math skills!)
  • Introduction to Mythology, Eva Thury – a textbook for a class I thought was going to be my favorite and which was actually my LEAST favorite to date. I wanted this class to be something totally different (not sure why) and ended up hating it. I don’t want to read old texts and analyze them, I’d rather discuss myths and what they all have in common I guess. *shrug*
  • Finders Keepers, Stephen King – a second in the series book with only a slight tie-in to the original book’s cast of characters. Not sure I love that approach but I’ve got a signed first edition of the third book in the series so I had to read this one.
  • The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson – my attempt to read classics in the horror genre. Apparently I’m a jaded horror girl who doesn’t like her horror subtle. This felt like watching a sixties movie today. So disappointed.
  • Bluescreen (Mirador #1), Dan Wells – who knew I liked cyberpunk!? This was a great read from one of my favorite local authors. If you like science and like to imagine what the future is like, pick this one up.
  • Small Great Things, Jodi Picoult – book club pick that was just meh for me. If you’re a privileged white person who’s never considered how it is to be black in America, you’ll probably love this book. (Because that’s who it was written for.) If you already read very diverse books, this will fall somewhat flat for you like it did for me.
  • Service Fanatics, James Merlino M.D. – I read this because our new CEO at work was quoted in it and I wanted to know the culture of the Cleveland Clinic where he came from. It was a fantastic read! I love that my company will help shape the future of medicine in the U.S.
  • Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides – one of my all-time favorite books that someone else picked for book club so I got to re-read it. Just as good the second time around!
  • The College Handbook of Creative Writing, Robert DeMaria – the first textbook on the subject I’ve read. It slants a LOT toward literary fiction but it had many great lessons to teach me that I have already applied to my writing toolbox. A great starting point if you’re a writer.
  • Red Queen (Red Queen #1), Victoria Aveyard – my teen couldn’t stop talking about this book and finally convinced me to read it. It was, you guessed it, another YA dystopian world. It had some great ideas and was entertaining, but I have no desire to keep reading the series.
  • Dark Matter, Blake Crouch – an impulse buy for myself at the bookstore that I couldn’t put down. I ended up picking it for book club this year and everyone else who read it raved about it, too. If you’re a fan of sci-fi and like mind-twisting plots, you’ll love this one.
  • Pope Joan, Donna Woolfolk Cross – book club pick based loosely on evidence that there once was a woman who pretended to be a man so she could be educated and ended up as Pope. It was entertaining and fascinating from a historical perspective.
  • The Dark Tower (The Dark Tower #7), Stephen King – this rounded out my re-read of the entire series that I started in 2016. Overall, I still love the ending (especially as it plays into the new movie of the same title that came out in 2017.) I love the first four books in the series much more than I love the last three which came out so close together I had never re-read them. Still my favorite King series.

2016 Book Archive

Time once again for the yearly recap of my reading. I’ve read a bunch of books this year and while I no longer have time to do extensive reviews of each on GoodReads, I offer you the following short reviews in case you’re looking for recommendations. This also is my way of keeping track of what I’ve read in one nice and neat format I can look back on. These are in chronological order because this year my OCD got the best of me. Enjoy!

  • Heart-Shaped Box, Joe Hill – I wanted to love this one after NOS4A2 but it was not quite as good. It was enjoyable as a horror/thriller but it didn’t stick with me like previous reads written by Hill.
  • The Finger Trap, Johnny Worthen – great meandering mystery with a main character who has distinctive voice. It was like getting a glimpse inside a middle aged guy and figuring out exactly what makes him tick while he tries his best to become an unwilling private investigator to save his own skin.
  • The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah – this was a book club pick and was heart-wrenchingly good. I cried, I rejoiced, I weeped. A period piece about WWII, which I don’t always love, but was extremely good. Highly recommended.
  • Old Scratch and Owl Hoots: A Collection of Utah Horror, short story collection – this was a fun jaunt through the minds of Utah Horror with a western theme. Western is not one of my preferred genres and not all the stories were created equal but there were several that were worth reading that I enjoyed. Short story collections are fabulous when trying out new authors or for fast reads between larger ones.
  • Waiting for Sunrise, Eva Marie Everson – another book club selection but one I didn’t particularly enjoy. It was light beach reading with a side of religious overtones. I know lots of people who liked it and thought it was inspiring but it wasn’t my cup of tea.
  • The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Stephen King – what’s not to love in a story collection by my favorite author? Some were weird, some were frightening and all had something to like.
  • Shadows of Self (Mistborn #5), Brandon Sanderson – the “middle” book in the second Mistborn series. I LOVED the first three books and while it is interesting and fun to revisit the world that has evolved around the magic from the first three for 500 years, I don’t love or feel as invested in these characters as I wish I did. A fun fantasy from my favorite fantasy author but not my favorite from him.
  • Physics of the Future, Michio Kaku – research for my current novel in progress. Should have been titled “Technology of the Future” since it was more about that than physics. Exactly what I wanted and sparked many of my futuristic elements when writing my future-based story.
  • Shadow of the Wind (Cemetary of Forgotten Books #1), Carlos Ruiz Zafon – another book club selection and a fabulous experience on Audible. It was written in Spanish and translated to English and hearing the audio narrator pronounce all the words properly gave it a beautiful tone. Many remarked that this one had so much going on that they felt like it was heavy and needed cliff notes but I loved it because it was meaty with layers that built upon themselves. Highly recommended.
  • The Tell Tale Heart, Edgar Allan Poe – a classic horror tale that I had never read. I don’t always enjoy classics but this one was light and fun and a quick read.
  • Living the Secular Life, Phil Zuckerman – I heard an interview with the author on NPR and it intrigued me. Loved reading this one since it applied very much to my own secular life. If you’re a secular person, or love someone who is, this is a great book!
  • Strangers, Michaelbrent Collins – I gave this local favorite horror author another try after hearing the premise of this story at a convention. While I liked it better than his zombie series, it was very fast paced and heavy handed. It also left you hanging at the end with a cliffhanger that feels like a ploy to get me to pick up the next installment. Still a huge pet peeve for me when authors don’t finish a story and think it necessary to leave readers dangling. It was fun and gruesome so if you’re into that kind of thing it was not disappointing. Just be aware of the loose ends left dangling at the end and if it isn’t something you can get past, don’t start it.
  • Yellow Crocus, Laila Ibrahim – another book club pick that I really liked. This one was a period piece from the era of slavery written from the perspective of the privileged white girl raised by the African American wet nurse. It was very entertaining with great characters that I felt connected to. The story felt fresh to me with a perspective I’ve never considered. Very good pick for a book club discussion on diversity.
  • Calamity (The Reckoners #3), Brandon Sanderson – the final installment of this fabulous “superhero” fantasy series that my entire family was highly anticipating. The whole series is well worth your time if you love fantasy or superheroes.
  • A Walk In the Woods, Bill Bryson – this started out well but was more a travelog than a memoir. I had hoped it was another like “Wild” but it was merely an account of one man’s attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail in middle age. Skip the book and watch the movie on this one. All the funny parts and none of the boring recounts.
  • The Dark, James Herbert – this was a monthly selection of the Horror Afficionado Goodreads group that sounded interesting at a time when I needed something new. It was meh – mostly because it was more suspenseful because the author strung the reader along with very little new information. The reveal at the end was a let down and I realized it was an older book and forgave the shortcomings. If you want a scary story but don’t love the modern horror genre, this would be a good one to check out.
  • David (The Unseen #3), Johnny Worthen – I had been waiting for this final installment of one of the best written YA series ever and was lucky enough to get an advanced reader copy so I didn’t have to wait until the release date. Lucky since it kept getting pushed further and further out. It helps to know the author personally. This was a very satisfying wrap up to a fantastic story. If you haven’t read all three, you should.
  • Keep Quiet, Lisa Scottoline – another book club pick. The premise is that a father and son are driving home late, the son driving even though he only has his learner permit and isn’t supposed to be driving at night, and they hit a jogger on a deserted road. The father decides his son’s future is too valuable to risk and tells his son to keep quiet. I found the story extremely frustrating because the characters kept making insanely bad choices and the plot twists were outrageous and unbelievable. Not one of my favorites but could be a light beach read if you’re into that kind of a story.
  • Vicious, V.E. Schwab – book club pick that I really enjoyed. Another take on people with extraordinary gifts where two extremely intelligent college friends become nemesis’. It was a great book for a discussion with readers since there was no clear-cut good guy or bad guy but rather complex and layered characters with believable motivations. Highly recommended.
  • The Bands of Mourning (Mistborn #6), Brandon Sanderson – had to finish the series but, again, not my favorite. It has more of a steampunk flavor and none of the characters I initially loved from the first three books. It was fun and lighthearted but I’ve come to more fully appreciate Sanderson’s epic fantasy.
  • The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1), Stephen King – after discussion with a friend who was reading the Dark Tower series for the first time, I decided it was time to re-read one of my all time favorite series. I more fully appreciate the first installment knowing exactly how the entire series plays out but it is still my least favorite of all seven.
  • The Drawing of the Three (The Dark Tower #2), Stephen King – being back in the world of the Gunslinger and his Ka-tet, I couldn’t stop. This was the first volume I read – back in junior high when it was first released – and still is so much fun to read.
  • The Passenger, Lisa Lutz – book club pick that was layered with suspense and mystery and thoroughly enjoyable. There were mixed reviews from some during our discussion but overall well received. If you like psychological thrillers that keep you guessing, this one is a fabulous one.
  • The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower #3), Stephen King – still my favorite series ever and I loved being back with my favorite characters on their journey.
  • Burying the Honeysuckle Girls, Emily Carpenter – this was a book club book that was surprisingly good. About a girl whose mother and grandmother are surrounded by mystery when they go crazy and either died or disappeared. As her own 21st birthday approaches, she tries to unravel the mystery before she suffers the same fate. I really enjoyed this one and later found out it is a debut from a brand new author.
  • Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower #4), Stephen King – still my favorite in this series. I found myself quoting the iconic lines along with the narrator several times. Still one of the few books I’ve read more than once. I believe this is the sixth go for me and I still loved every minute of it.
  • The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt – this was my pick for the book club since no other book I’d read since my last pick was as poignant. I listened to it again in preparation for leading the book club discussion and it was even better the second time. Such beautiful language and such a heart-wrenching story. Highly recommended!
  • Jewel, Bret Lott – book club pick that I, unfortunately, couldn’t find unabridged on audible. I thought it wouldn’t matter if I read the abridged version but found I had missed a lot of the meat of the story once I was mid-discussion at book club. A story about a mother who has a child at a later age, after she already has a house full of children, who has Downs Syndrome. The emotional parts were skimmed and if you’re going to pick this one up you should NOT settle for the abridged version.
  • Wolves of the Calla (The Dark Tower #5), Stephen King – I realized that while I’d read and re-read all the books in the series leading up to this installment, while I and the rest of the world waited impatiently for King to finish what he started, I had only read this one the one time when it was released. While the first 4 volumes felt like visiting with old friends and reminiscing about all the most loved stories from our past, this one was fresh and new and I’d forgotten a lot of things. Loved it as much as the first time.
  • Song of Suzannah (The Dark Tower #6), Stephen King – again, fresh and new and felt like I was reading new material. So glad the last one was on the book shelf and ready to go once I finished this one.

Thanks to Audible and the power of multi-tasking, I was able to read 30 books this year. A number I thought I’d never attain again when life got crazy. So glad technology allows me to continue to enjoy this pastime I so enjoy. Here’s to reading even more in 2017!

2015 In the Rear View

I am not one who makes resolutions with the changing of the calendar. Instead, I’m continually analyzing, taking stock of where I am and where I want to be, making course corrections as I go. As the year rolls over to a new one, I do like to look back at the last year and note the lessons learned.

2015 was monumental in many ways.

In terms of my writing career, this was a banner and extremely noteworthy twelve months.  My first publication Secrets & Doors released in February. In May, I sold my first short story to an online magazine. All while I revised my second novel. In August, I submitted to my first writing contest, where the old adage of “you cannot please every reader” was proven, and got valuable feedback from professionals. In September, I submitted to my first open call for submission and edged out thirty other writers for a spot in a new collection releasing next month.

That last one was the writing highlight of the year for me. As much as I love focusing on the successes along the way, I am also secretly worried that I don’t really have what it takes to make it as an author. That no one but my friends and family will enjoy what I read. I shrivel and give in to self-doubt often and have to remind myself that just putting my work out there is a step many artists and dreamers won’t ever take. While my first publication was traditionally published, I didn’t have to submit as part of an open call once I joined the collection of authors that eventually became the Secret Door Society. My self-doubt always whispered in my ear that if I had to go up against an open call of other professionals I may not be worthy. By taking that step and proving myself wrong, I have been able to quiet some of those internal fears that seem always lurking.

On the other side of the coin, this was a very eye-opening year for the more disappointing side of writing. While I sold a short story to a magazine, it was not published. What was to be a print magazine with a broad readership potential turned out to be a fledgling idea prone to delays. The format changed to an online magazine instead and then put on hold until further notice. I got the rights back to my story, but it was a sad disappointment all the same.

The most difficult lesson I took away from 2015 was the value of time. Time as a commodity has been a consideration for years. Each time I decide to do something new, like pursuing being an author, means I have to give up other things, like television. This year I got caught up in activities that took a lot of time, too much time, time I didn’t have, to be part of a writing organization. At the end of the year, the organization had ultimately failed and all I had to show for the time I’d devoted were months where I’d spent all my writing time NOT writing. Because of this, I’ve decided to devote 2016 to producing rather than associating. I can aspire to be on writing panels and making appearances at writing conferences when I have more publications under my belt. If I’m a writer who doesn’t spend the majority of my time writing, I’ll never get to where I want to be as an author. Bottom line, it makes no sense to promote yourself to potential fans until you have something for them to read. I lost sight of that for a few months this past year. Months I won’t get back, which makes me a tad bitter when I let myself dwell on it. Which I don’t very often.

The other areas of my life were overall positive this past year.

The flip side of the time coin came with the improved family dynamics as a result of Hubby’s new job. Having him on a day shift schedule and home with us all the time has made a huge difference in the quality of our family. I can’t wait to spend as much time together in 2016 as we didn’t in the preceding eight years of dreaded night shift. Every day that we get home from work together and spend the evening taking turns running the kids around and cooking dinner together is a gift.

Financially, 2015 was also noteworthy. We achieved our ten-year goal of being debt free except for our mortgage. Which was also why Hubby had the luxury of quitting to find a day job. Of course, it didn’t last long since the cars are all old and paid for (aka time to die!). I leased my first brand new car and I love being part of the Volkswagen family. 2016 will see a massive remodel to our house, which will be fantastic – when it’s OVER. During will be another story…

My health this year has still been a bit of a roller coaster but more like the kiddie coaster with baby hills and far easier to manage than years past. I still struggle with things like how much is too much fluid to drink every day – enough to stave off a flare-up of gout but not too much so I retain water and have to take diuretics that give me massive charlie horses and require yet another drug to counteract the effects. I’m still in remission and according to my doctor that means I have an indefinite number of years ahead of me. I’m far luckier than a lot of people and, considering all the insanity I’ve been through in past years to get here, I can deal with monthly blood draws and relatively few medications. Even being a vegetarian has become somewhat routine after two years.

I’ve struggled the past year where it came to fitness. Two years of focusing on survival and treatment of my disease relegated fitness to the back burner. I consider it a win that I’ve been able to maintain my weight overall, minus the water retention fluctuations of course, for the last couple of years. However, I’m ready to get beyond the mere survival and 2016 is the year I get back to being strong and fit, which has suffered since I had to give up running. The last half of 2015 has been off and on for yoga with my new, more demanding day job schedule and I’m feeling the effects. I’ve recommitted to my twice a week yoga practice and have started incorporating more cardio in the other days of the week. I may never run a Ragnar again but I can be strong and fit again.

This year brought three weddings within our immediate families – my sister, Hubby’s sister and Hubby’s brother – and the birth of a new niece who I adore. So much joy to counteract another year I had to spend without my Mom who I still miss every day. Life is a balance like that and what we’re left with overall is up to each of us as individuals.

I didn’t read as many books as I wanted to last year – but I still read a lot of great ones. I didn’t write as much as I wanted to – but I still wrote 84,966 words over the course of the year. (Yes, I track it to the individual word. Don’t judge, you know I’m a data geek!) I didn’t travel as much as I wanted to – but I got to go to Hawaii with my entire immediate family. Overall it was a fantastic year simply because I got to live it. And because I am the master of my fate and the captain of my journey, I can make 2016 an even better representation of my hopes and dreams.

May 2016 treat you well. Live in the moment, surround yourself with positive people who contribute to the achievement of your dreams rather than pulling you down, and take risks to live the life you love. That’s what I’ll be doing! Thanks for joining me on my journey and thanks always for reading.

Book List Archive 2015

Time for the yearly round up and archive of my efforts to remain a well-read person. This year I did not reach my goal but I did read a lot of really great books. Here they are, all summed up, for your reading pleasure. And in reverse chronological order because my OCD did not win that fight – this time.

  • The Innocent, Harlan Coben (Book Club) – a light yet entertaining whodunit perfect for the beach or a long weekend. The ending was satisfying although pieces of the story were a tad predictable.
  • The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt – one of the best books I read all year which definitely lived up to all the hype I had heard about it. There are very bleak elements that leave you feeling grateful for the life you have since they are painted so authentically through the characters. A truly phenomenal book that everyone should read!
  • The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Laroux (Book Club) – a classic that I hadn’t read. I probably would have put it down had it not been a book club pick. I just can’t get into period pieces that old but still I’m glad I read it.
  • The Good Girl, Mary Kubica – also a good read but only because of how it was written. I found myself trying to solve the mystery of “before or after WHAT” all the way through. The ending was very satisfying. A great read for anyone who likes a whodunit.
  • The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins – one of the best reads of the year. Finally a smart, adult novel with twists I didn’t see coming and characters with real depth. It kept me guessing to the end and I recommend it now to everyone who asks.
  • Birthmarked, Caragh M. O’Brien (Book Club) – a light and easy read that left me wanting far more details than were given since it was written for the superficial YA market who doesn’t demand it. Such a shame!
  • All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr – had so much potential but, just like most novels set in the WWII era, left me feeling bleak and unfulfilled. I think it’s safe to say this is not one of my favorite genres.
  • The Fold, Peter Clines – I picked this up because I recognized the author’s name from the best scifi book I’d read the last year or so. Little did I know it was a continuation of that story which had stuck with me so much. Very enjoyable read!
  • The Paper Magician, Charlie N. Holmberg – I disliked this book so much. It was very clearly written for a YA audience who cannot think critically for themselves. The concepts were intriguing but not enough detail was given for anything to be plausible and the whole thing left me feeling insulted. My daughter probably would have liked it when she was eleven. To be fair, that’s probably the intended market so there’s that.
  • Warbreaker, Brandon Sanderson – a great stand-alone read from the master of epic fantasy. He is still one of my all-time favorite authors.
  • Mao’s Last Dancer, Li Cunxin (Book Club) – it was interesting to see how poor Chinese live but the book overall was not a very compelling one.
  • Mr Mercedes, Stephen King – a good old horror novel by one of my favorite authors.
  • Being Mortal, Atul Gawande – a fantastic book about living on our own terms and dying the same way. Every person everywhere should read this book. I expected it to be a social commentary about the current hot topic of Physician Assisted Suicide or The Right to Die which I was also expected to hate. What I got instead was one of the best books about one of the hardest topics any of us will ever face. I wish I’d read this book before my Mom passed away…
  • Celeste, The Unseen #2, Johnny Worthen (ARC) – the much anticipated sequel to Eleanor which did not disappoint. Except for the fact that the third is not released yet and so I must wait.
  • The Wise Man’s Fear (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 2), Patrick Rothfuss – a much anticipated sequel that fell short for me and felt disappointingly like a setup book for the third one.
  • Altered Perceptions, short stories to benefit mental health – I bought this as part of a crowd fund campaign to benefit a local author suffering with a mental health disorder. It is a collection of well-known authors with either deleted scenes or unpublished works. I got it for the Brandon Sanderson early draft of The Way of Kings. And THEN…. It was by far one of the BEST books I’ve read in a long time. Not because of the stories themselves, but because every author included a personal essay about how mental health had touched their lives in some way. Every person everywhere should read this book! Better yet, they should just publish the author essays and that is what everyone should read. Seriously, go read this book.
  • The Brand Demand, Johnny Worthen – FABULOUS social satire set in Salt Lake City so it felt like all the politics and struggles were real. One of my favorite books of the year.
  • Bog Child, Siobhan Dowd (Book Club) – a novel set around the time of the IRA in Ireland with some interesting facts about archaeology.
  • ITIL Service Strategy – a brutal course but I passed the exam and am now certified!
  • The Dovekeepers, Alice Hoffman (Book Club) – an interesting novelization of ancient Christianity with strong female characters. I wanted to hate it but it was a good read.
  • The Archangel Agenda, A.K. Alexander & Jen Greyson – this was a light and semi-steamy read but felt like a serialized novel where just the first act of the story was included and you had to buy the second (and probably third) to get the entire story. Apparently that’s the “in” thing now for Kindle readers?
  • Cutting For Stone, Abraham Verghese (Book Club) – a very slow burn but a fantastic read with a killer ending.
  • Firefight, Brandon Sanderson – much anticipated sequel to Steelheart which Hubby and I both loved.
  • Pretty Things, Christine Haggerty – a novella retelling of a Grimm Fairytale. I’m not a huge fan of the fairy tale but this was not a bad read. Not as Grimm or as dark as I had anticipated and it was very short.

It was disappointing to count and realize I only finished twenty four books of the forty total I set out to read this year. That’s an average of two books a month which is better than years past when I struggled just to finish the book club pick each month. I consume most of my books on Audible which means this small list represents the amount of time I had over the year where it was possible to multi-task. Because of that, it still feels like an overall accomplishment for the year. Here’s to bettering it next year!

Book List Archive 2014

It’s New Year’s Day – time for reflection and putting away Christmas decorations. It has become tradition to capture my yearly list of books I’ve read from the site and archive them as a blog post with a little insight about each one. Long gone are the days I had time (or energy) to review every one as separate posts. However, if you’re on Goodreads, friend me up since I give at least a little blurb and a rating there when I finish reading. Here’s my efforts this year to become remain a well-read author.

  • The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor (work book club) – Self-help is not my favorite genre but this one was fabulous and just what I needed at the time. It even influenced my January blogging.
  • These Is My Words, Nancy E. Turner (book club)
  • Lone Survivor, Marcus Luttrell – the movie was better. Rarely is this true, but this time it is.
  • The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson – rocked my epic fantasy world like nothing else since Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time.
  • Wild, Cheryl Strayed – a great read and another surprise since I rarely like memoirs
  • A Prisoner of Birth, Jeffrey Archer (book club)
  • Beatrysel, Johnny Worthen – one of the best books I read this year. Mostly because it was dark and unique and spoke to  me deep down in my core like nothing before it. (Caution: Not for the faint of heart!)
  • Words of Radiance, Brandon Sanderson – more than hooked on this author and this series especially. I devoured it!
  • In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer, Irene Gut Opdyke (book club)
  • The Colony: Genesis, Michaelbrent Collings (not my favorite this year!)
  • Eleanor, Johnny Worthen (ARC*) – seriously, if you haven’t read this book go get a copy right now. Kids and adults and everyone in between will love this one. Johnny won Utah’s Writer of the Year for this book and it was deserving.
  • NOS4A2, Joe Hill – fabulous horror book like Stephen King used to write.
  • The Circle, Dave Eggers – (work book club)
  • The Tipping Point, Malcome Gladwell (work book club)
  • Monster Hunter International, Larry Correia – great military fiction with a supernatural twist
  • Heft, Liz Moore (book club) – one of the best we read this year.
  • Copper Descent (ARC*), Angela Hartley – one of my first blog tour posts
  • The Shining, Stephen King – I read this as a kid and wanted a re-read before the sequel. Not as frightening the second time around.
  • Doctor Sleep, Stephen King – changed the way I look at a mundane piece of the world. Still the master!
  • Second Firsts, Christina Rasmussen – (book club) – great read about dealing with loss. It was amazing to help deal with the loss of my health at the time. Little did I know I’d need it on such a deeper level later.
  • ITIL Service Operation – technical manual for a certification. Not a light or very enjoyable read, but necessary. I lament all the great fiction I could have read instead!
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman (my pick for book club) Amazing, amazing. I love Gaiman!
  • Monster Hunter Vendetta, Larry Correia – guilty pleasure via Audible
  • Plot and Structure, James Scott Bell – great read if you’re a writer
  • Call the Midwife, Jennifer Worth (book club)
  • Divergent, Veronica Roth (book club) – I wanted to hate it after seeing the movie but it was better and I didn’t.
  • The Colony: Renegades, Michaelbrent Collings – got a free copy on Audible and hoped the sequel was better. It wasn’t.
  • The End of Dieting, Joel Fuhrman – the book my doctor told me to read when embarking on veganism
  • Suspect, Robert Crais – recommended author to study on writing action which did not disappoint
  • Mitosis, Brandon Sanderson – more like a short story but I had to buy it so it counts!
  • Heart of Annihilation, C.R. Asay – (book club) another blog tour visitor (written by my writing group buddy)
  • The Giver, Lois Lowry – my oldest had to read it and kept talking about it and the movie was coming out so…
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie (book club)
  • ITIL Continual Service Improvement – another technical manual and certification that took far too much time away from “real” reading. But I passed!
  • The Martian, Andy Weir – best science fiction of the year that I happened to just stumble upon on Audible.
  • The Fault In Our Stars, John Green – did not live up to the hype!
  • Revival, Stephen King
  • Insurgent, Veronica Roth
  • Shadows Beneath: The Writing Excuses Anthology, Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, Howard Tayler – great stories and a great behind-the-scenes look on the writing process of successful authors.

I have a rule that life is too short to waste time on books I don’t like after a few chapters. This list does not include two books I put down only partially read this year. One of them being Outlander, yes the same one everyone raves about and that they made a television series about. The other was some drivel that I don’t even remember the title of. Given all the time outside of work it took me to obtain two new professional certifications this year, I got a ton of great reading in. Can’t wait to do it all again in 2015! Happy reading to all my fellow readers out there.

*ARC = Advanced Reader Copy in the publishing world. Which means I got to read it before it was available to the public. Always a fabulous thing for an impatient woman like me!